Is educational leadership different from leadership in other fields?

John Connell has made some very kind comments about the Seven Sides of Educational Leadership model which I’m currently developing.


As ever John has that uncanny ability to cut to straight to the ‘heart’ of an issue. So much so that I’ve actually ‘stolen’  some of his words for the introduction to the site.

The point is that I took it for granted that people would accept that educational leadership is different from leadership in other fields – yet it took John to make the point explicitly. 

5 thoughts on “Is educational leadership different from leadership in other fields?

  1. I am interested in seeing more on this point of view. I am currently studying Management Development (Msc) and was previously in Management roles in Industry before entering education, and would tend to disagree that leadership is different in Education. There is a difference in leadership between any profession not that education is different from all other fields, i.e. a them and us situation. Yes there are different pressures and skills required but this is true for all fields.

    This question has also came up in the CPD management course being run at John Muir House ( see I Look forward to discussing it more.

    Curious that also the number seven has been chosen for the model. There are many papers/publications which use the same number and even Management Training Companies. Must look them out and put links on my page. Also this could be an interesting subject for dissertation i.e. data from Industry and Education managers within East Lothian compared?

  2. If I may, while studying the Fairytale for my MA (somebody had to) I found out that seven is one of several magical numbers which humans enjoy being pulled to. Tonight’s homework: cut an orange or lemon in half and count the sections – seven (lemon) or 14 (orange)? Who knows if GM plays around with this but when I did my dissertation it was true 😉

    Nice to discover your blog today, Bill!

  3. Bill
    I think the answer to the question “Is educational leadership different?” will depend on how you construct the idea of leadership to begin with. In other words, we know “leadership” because we see it through some lens or other, because it fits some mental model or schema that filters in and out those words, actions, beliefs and behaviours to which we ascribe the meaning of leadership. To this way of thinking, it is context which gives words or actions, values or beliefs the meaning of “leadership.” So, in education as elswhere leadership arises in context: the context of schools, lessons, lives and emotions of teachers and young people. I would say there is no leadership absent the context in which it arises. And as these contexts are different from “business”, so educational leadership will be different…..but then all leadership will be different or perhaps expressed better as arise uniquely.

    From this perspective, which is a constructivist one, leaders and the led, leadership and followership, the experience of the individual and the group and the situations in which they find themeselves are inextricably intertwined. I appreciate this perspective is different from one that is widely held in education and business which still tends to reflect ideas that leadership is understood as a set of attributes or charactersitics of individuals or is associated with postion and hierarchical power. To that way of thinking we might imagine leaders from business (or other organisational settings) as quite capable leaders for schools, their leadership as a portable commodity and the leadership tasks they undertake the same whatever the circumstances. And yet, business and organisational life, including education I would guess, provides many examples of people who led well in one situation less able to lead in another, or who find themselves deserted by these very attributes in dramatically changing circumstances. To sum up, I think separating leadership from its context is tricky as leaders make situtuations as much as situations make leaders.

    (If this line of thought is of interest you might take a look at the work of Linda Lambert in “The Construcivist Leader” or Wifred Drath in “The Deep Blue Sea – Rethinking the Source of Leadership”)


  4. Greame – thanks for the comment – very useful. My only reservation is the notion of “leadership and followership” and the “leader and the led.”

    For me there is little corrolation between leadership and followership. There are so many leaders I’ve come across in education and business who are not “followed” – at least not voluntarily – by those for over whom they have responssibility. I think I’ll follow this up in a separate post. Thanks for the stimulation.

  5. Pingback: Don’s Learning Log » Does successful educational “leadership” equate with “followership?”

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